Before joining Facebook as a Solutions Engineer I had many questions about what the role implied and if it was a good fit for me. After almost one year into the role I wanted to share more about what we do and inspire you.
I had been working as a software engineer for 10+ years, mainly building web applications. I was starting to feel that I didn’t enjoy dedicating 100% of my time to code, and wanted to understand why I was building what I was building.
What kind of metrics was I trying to move? How did I validate that the project was successful? How did I iterate on it once the initial version was shipped? And, especially, how could I propose and drive projects that I thought could be valuable to the company?
I wanted to apply technology to solve business problems, and move away from seeing technology as a goal itself.
I had never heard of the “Solutions Engineer” role, but when people at Facebook described it to me it was clear what gaps it was trying to solve.
Having worked previously building public APIs I felt that disconnection between consumers (partners, small and large developers) and internal teams. Advocating for a technology can get you somewhere, but if you are not able to address consumer’s feedback, identify opportunities and test them, then you won’t get far.
Solutions Engineer partner with companies that advertise on Facebook (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Whatsapp) and help them make sound decisions on their technical integration. This goes all the way from how they setup basic events on their website to know what actions users are performing during a purchase flow, to fully automate campaigns with dynamic creatives, audiences and bidding.
Best of all is that Solutions Engineers are Software Engineers. This might seem obvious from the role title, but it holds true on a daily basis. We identify business opportunities that can’t be addressed with our current tools, create proposals, validate them by building them ourselves, and scale. We are the ones closest to the advertiser and the best to help product teams making their projects succeed with real customers.
We spend roughly half of our time building features and products in collaboration with other teams from Facebook, solving problems we have identified after working with advertisers.
Most of my colleagues have created their own companies or have worked as CTOs. And in practice, one would say we act sometimes as mini-CTOs inside the teams working with advertisers. We care about the advertiser’s challenges (eg increase brand awareness, sell more products, increase gross margin, reduce churn of users) and help out using our tools.
We are not told what to do and it is expected that we pull help from product teams, design, or marketing to propose and drive projects. And ultimately, prove that it drove some measurable impact to both the advertiser and Facebook. All this while getting access to the data and tools you need to do your job keeping process at a minimum. I must say I’m greatly surprised how smooth this works at Facebook, taking into account its humongous size.
This level of freedom and trust can be challenging at first. If you are used to being told what to do, then this is not an environment you will thrive at first. This can be challenging but in the long term is highly rewarding. There is the expectation that you come up with ideas, so rather than people telling you to keep yourself within your role’s boundaries, you will see colleagues supporting you all the way.
The role is very flexible and every Solutions Engineer works differently. Some are working with advertisers within a certain vertical (ecomm, retail, travel, fintech, games…), others within a certain region. For instance, I support advertisers in the Nordics across all verticals.
Each company has their own unique challenges, and the goal is to identify how our solutions are falling short and how we can improve it, without shortcuts. Every new project adds complexity: more code to maintain, more products to support users with, a bigger surface prone to bugs. That’s why we align with other Solutions Engineers working to identify similar problems with the advertisers they work with, and help build a case for a project that doesn’t solve a specific limitation for a company, but can scale. Ultimately the tools that a large company can use to do marketing on Facebook are the same ones you and I can use.
If this sounds interesting, please reach out on Twitter or email. We have open positions for the role, including one based in Stockholm where you would work side by side with me. I’m also genuinely interested in talking with colleagues working at companies that could benefit from having a similar role, so reach out if you want to have a chat.
Facebook Careers interviewed a few of my colleagues in February 2019 in this video. I have transcribed the video, which includes questions from people that were watching it live, that will help you to know more:
Jordan Rogers-Smith: Hi everyone and welcome to our Facebook Live. My name is Jordan and I’m a solutions engineer here at Facebook London. Today I’m joined by members of our client engineering team and together we want to look at what it’s like to work on such a team within Facebook.
We’ll touch upon some of the growth areas within our teams, the challenges we regularly face, as well as the opportunities that make working in this team such a unique experience.
Let’s dive in and do some intros with the rest of the team. Firstly, Flora, tell us a little about yourself and how you are doing at Facebook.
Flora Adorjan: Thanks Jordan. Hi guys, my name is Flora. I’m also a Solutions Engineer in the same team as Jordan. I am based in London but I focus on the area which is called DACH (Germany, Switzerland, and Austria). I traveled there sometimes and I mainly cover the ecomm and retail verticals there, and I’ve been with Facebook for two and a half years.
Yannick Mahé: My name is Yannick. I am a Solutions Engineering Manager. I’m based in Paris. I work for the whole of southern Europe so at Facebook that means France, Italy, Spain and Israel. I work on the automotive verticals and have members of my team work on other verticals like luxury, retail, travel, and e-commerce.
Yash Sahay: Hi, I’m Yash. I’m a partner engineer manager on the platform partnerships team. I lead the partner engineering team for EMEA and we focus on platform products like Messenger, AR Camera, Portal yeah camera portal and Facebook products for Europe and East Africa.
Jordan: Nice! And I guess to close out, my name’s Jordan I too work here in London and have been on the team for about five years and I currently focus on our small to medium businesses so I really think about how we can help grow the smallest advertises on our platform.
Jordan: So let’s jump in and look at some of the questions that have been submitted before the event took off. First, both partners and solutions engineering appear to be very unique roles in the industry. Can you describe what partner engineers and solutions engineers at Facebook do?
Yash: Partner engineering is a pretty unique role in the industry. I think everybody has their interpretation of what that is at different companies. At Facebook the role requires you to either focus on specific business verticals, and therefore work with partners in those business verticals, and bring them on board to our family of Facebook products that are designed or catering to those verticals. Or partner engineers could be working on different developer products which are spanning across a set of business verticals and roles.
Jordan: Flora, how would you describe Solutions Engineering at Facebook?
Flora That’s kind of a hard question. Obviously I’ve explained it so many times to some of my friends. It’s a very unique mixture of client facing and engineering. We spent about half of our time actually coding on the Facebook stack and the other half working directly with the advertisers. That means that we are not only trying to help our most important advertisers by partnering with them, but we’re also trying to learn from them to see what would be most impactful to work on. We write a lot of prototypes, for example, for these kind of ideas that we got from working with these clients.
Jordan: And to slightly change the question to you, Yannick, what is it that attracted you to the role in solutions engineering.
Yannick: I have a background of being a very tech oriented guy at different companies and start ups and being at a more pure technical level, even if in management. This is one role where you get the opportunity to be really connected to the business. You talk with sales people, sales leaders, clients… You talk with the client’s CEO to explain to them how Facebook technology can help them unlock new potential and that’s a very unique proposition for this role.
Jordan: Nice! And Yash, anything you want to add about why you wanted to join Facebook?
Yash: I’ve been a career entrepreneur my entire life before Facebook and this is one of those roles which allows me to still be an entrepreneur, but inside of Facebook. I get to work with cross-functional teams inside Facebook, product engineering managers, but at the same time with the level of empathy for businesses and help them succeed on our platform and so work closely with partners at that level.
Jordan: Excellent! Our first live question of the day: how does the typical day of an engineer at Facebook look like?
Flora I think there is no such thing as typical day, at least for a solutions engineer everyday is different. There are maybe days when I’m more focused on engineering, when I’m trying to focus on the project I’m working on, and maybe I even block out time to make sure that it happens. And there are other days when I may be visiting an advertiser at their office or meeting them in our office and the whole day’s focus is around that, so it’s pretty varied in my case at least.
Yannick: Yeah same thing, I couldn’t answer it better. On my case there is no typical day. To expand on that I think for partner engineers, we have an easy way to structure our time and different people have different formats. There is no sort of box that you put yourself in. Typically a day would start with some meetings with partners.
Flora: In the beginning of the week we figure out the work for the whole week and then towards the end of the week would be doing more maybe internal meetings with product teams to get an idea of where the product is headed, and also do some engineering work for which we usually try to block extended periods of time to not have a lot of context switching. It is again different for different people.
Yannick: I think one point that’s interesting, in which you touched on, is that both solutions and partner engineering is very entrepreneurial. We expect people to set their own agenda, how they will go about their day. If that day client meetings is how you feel you’ll have the most impact, that’s the way to go about it. If this is a day you want to focus on coding that’s another possibility, but it’s up to you to find what is best for your goals.
Jordan: Yeah, I think you’re exactly right. The autonomy that you’re given in this role is probably second to none in a sense. We’ve had another live question: what is the most exciting aspect of working at Facebook on client facing products?
Yannick: One example for me is that two or three months into the role I got called into a meeting set by sales people where we had the full afternoon for a specific client. I had a one hour discussion with them about how to set their technical strategy depending on their goals. I think this is not something you can do every day with the CEO of a company that is thriving in Italy. That was a very unique experience and within three months I was already ready to do that.
Flora: Also the fact that if you are working on building something you straight away meet the people who will use that product. There’s a really short feedback loop that will tell you exactly what’s missing or what could be changed to make that product even more effective. Then it goes out to the thousands eventually, but you do meet those first users face to face, which is pretty exciting.
Yash: Yeah, absolutely. The part where we get to have that level of empathy with businesses it’s also the part which leads to the most amount of success for partner engineers. It’s really understanding the business use case from the partner’s perspective, seeing what’s gonna make them successful, and then really taking a look at our products and saying “hey, does this make you successful or, if not, what else can be better to make you successful?”. On both of those sides there’s a diverging paths where we either proceed to work with our current set of products, help them integrate and get them to launch in closed beta or alpha. Or we would ship a prototype, we build it on stack and then we work with partners across the globe to get them on board.
Jordan: There’s obviously people in the industry called Solutions Engineers or Solutions Architects or some other nomenclature around that in other the companies, but in Facebook the term means something very very different. Yannick, do you want to explain how a solutions engineer at Facebook differs from what an industry solutions engineer might be considered as?
Yannick: This is a role I’ve only held at Facebook but I’ve had conversation with other solutions engineers across the industry. My understanding is that the expectation that we have of still being hands on, still coding and still building products is very unique to Facebook. Flora talked about having the short feedback loop, and it’s where we think we can build value and that’s why we want to keep the team this way.
Flora: What I’ve also experienced, not necessarily with this title but similar titles, is that the fact that it’s client facing is way more direct and in other companies where I’ve been doing similar roles. I’ve had a similar role previously which was also client facing, but in reality most of the time I was communicating with a client working on something especially for the client, but through a Product Manager. At Facebook you are the Product Manager yourself in a sense so you can go and actually meet the even the CEO even of some companies, so it’s very unique to Facebook.
Jordan: I think the only thing that I would add as well is that we don’t build bespoke things for clients in a sense. We look at the problems a client has and the industry has on the back of that and work out if it is worth building a solution for the industry as a whole. In other roles like solutions engineering or architect roles at enterprise companies it’s about tailoring a solution to fit that client’s specific need. And that is exactly not what this job is at Facebook. If anything, it’s the opposite. You’re building new products for new industries on new industry challenges and I think that for me is one of the clearest differences between the two.
Speaking of that, what are the main products or industries that both teams work on? I guess we’ve kind of touched them already but just to clear it out, Yash, what would you say are the main products and industries that your team works on?
Yash In terms of industries we span across all industries because we’re on the platform side. Then, of course, we have sister teams which focus on specific industries. For products I focus on platform products, which is a very generic term, but is comprised of Facebook Identity, Messenger, Spark AR, Portal and the business platform, which includes events, ticketing, movies and so on and so forth. And also Instagram Shopping and Instagram Direct Messaging. That’s a lot of products. From the sister team perspective we have teams which focus on Commerce, essentially experiences which will enable buy and sell relationships on our platform, and that team would typically work with partners at scale to bring those experiences and build those kind of solutions. In the media space they would work with music labels, sports, agencies (FIFA, for example). That’s all on the media side. Of course, big media companies as well, and also news agencies. There’s also gaming partnership and there is also payments. There’s a lot of different industry specific verticals, as I mentioned before, and there’s also this sort of broader developer focused area which is where I focus on, which spans across all the industries, but it’s focused more on product. The end goal is to get to product market fit for the specific variants that we are trying to release.
Flora: [from the Solutions Engineering’s perspective] We tend to focus on the ad side of things. We are helping some of the ads products grow by finding the most relevant beta candidates, for example, but our goal is not to grow a certain product. Our goal is always when we work with a certain advertiser to help them, so it’s not about the products it’s more of us knowing a little bit about each product so that we can recommend the best for the use case.
Jordan: What are the core problems or challenges that your team are trying to solve?
Yannick: It’s a very wide-ranging question. It will depend on which industry we’re working on and what products this advertiser is using. For me, in the automotive industry, it’s about trying to get the most relevant vehicles in front of the relevant person, so that they see the cars they are most likely interested in. But that’s one client and one type of industry. My role in this is usually about helping the clients move forward. The automotive industry is a slow-moving one so I will try to help their tech teams to understand how they can best build value for the marketing team and how they can work together and reach their goals.
Flora: I think one of our main goal is also that Facebook users see very relevant ads so they don’t consider it as spam but actually a useful use of their time. That they get presented that product they never heard about but they are actually interested in.
Yash: For partnerships we’re focused on the developer side to create unique and meaningful experiences. How do we get a partner who isn’t completely integrated with our platform, to use or leverage our platform and then drive growth in their business? Help them and therefore help other future partners to unlock the side of Facebook that really works for people, which is our social network.
Jordan: I would add, from my point of view from the small to medium business space, that creative is such a big problem. With Facebook you have obviously the stories with vertical format, you have the landscape format, you have video, and you have all of these different creative challenges. I think one of the things that the solutions engineering team is really thinking about is how can you simplify and how can you democratize creative in a way that all of these formats and these ways of expressing yourself are available really easily to the biggest advertisers in the world, but also to the smallest advertisers who don’t have a creative department. I think that’s another big pillar that I just wanted to call out for our team.
Jordan: Since we all work on the same customers at the end of the day, and we all work on the sort of same infrastructure, the next question is “what’s the tech stack we most often use?” and I imagine it’s the same for all three of us. Who wants to cover our tech stack?
Yannick: Facebook has a Facebook tech stack. We have reinvented a lot of industry products: we’ve made PHP evolve and use Hack instead, we have our own servers and our own IDEs and database systems, and we invented React. It’s a very Facebook tech stack, but what’s important to note is that we don’t expect anybody to come in and be proficient with our tech stack. We have a very intensive ramp up at the beginning where we get to learn how to use our technologies and we expect anybody who meets our expectations to be, in a way, technology agnostic and be able to operate in any language, and they will be able to learn.
Jordan: You’ve all touched on it in very different ways, but it’s very clear that our teams are very multifaceted roles. We have to wear many hats throughout the day and we have to do many things. Which part of it is your favorite? If you have to pick one thing to call out about the role that’s your favorite, what would it be?
Flora: I think the variety itself. I really enjoy that that my days are different and even within the day sometimes there is a switch between two different hats, from the client-facing work, the technology work, and also maybe recruiting, which I would also account and is a quite different aspect of the role. I quite enjoy being able to do all of these.
Yash: For me, working at Facebook allows me to work with some of the smartest people in the world, and for me that’s a very compelling reason to show up at work every day.
I live at walking distance from the office and I like walking fast. It’s one of those subtle indicators that your your job means more than a job. You’re looking forward to meeting people, you’re looking forward to working with your colleagues. A part of that is the challenging environment when you’re working with so many highly talented people.
Yannick: I think one point that you’re kind of touching on, and that is really core in our team, is the diversity of the team. We are in Europe, in a team of about 30 people and we probably have 10 to 15 nationalities and different backgrounds. On top of that not everybody is sitting in the same office. I’m in Paris, a big part of the team is in London, we have people in Tel Aviv, Dubai, Dublin and Stockholm. That also brings a diversity to the team, and even beyond that the global Sol Eng team. We work with North America pretty frequently, with Asia-Pacific, with Latin America. That also gives us a range of vision that we can’t get in most roles.
Jordan Yeah, I think that’s a great point. Following on from that we have Ping on the line, who is from our Singapore office. He’s currently in EMEA, so we haven’t asked him to stay awake until 1 a.m. Singapore time. Ping, thank you very much for joining us on this live. I want to ask you how often do your teams get to work on global projects and collaborate across different regions. And if you have an example that you could share I’d love to hear about it.
Ping: Sure! For giving you a background, I’m one of the Solutions Engineers and I’m based in Singapore but I cover Singapore and Thailand. Even if I stay in Singapore I have a lot of opportunities to work with our global teams. For example currently I’m working on a product where I have to work with a team in the U.S., so I’m working with them almost every single day. Additionally, not just only building the products because when we build the products, they eventually have to be used globally, so I have to work with many different teams around the world. For example I work with Flora, with Jordan, I ping them to ask for help, I try to give some consultation for the product that I’m proficient in.
Working with different regions is one of the most favorite part of my job. I think it’s very fascinating.
Jordan: Flora, anything you want to add about the cross regional collaboration that we have?
Flora: Yes. I actually worked with Ping on a project, which is a very typical example of a great product that was prototyped by our team. It’s called Collaborative Ads, and it has now been taken over by product team but we are still very much involved. It’s still in beta mode and we are helping onboarding the first clients. I’ve cooperated with Ping on this project quite extensively.
Jordan: Well, just before you go Ping, an impromptu question from me: what is your favorite thing about solutions engineering?
Ping: I think this is very unique role. Like you said, we are in the middle, we are like in-market engineers. We don’t do just coding, but also client-facing. I love to talk with clients and provide consultation and I’m very happy when I see my clients solve their problems.
Jordan: Excellent! Thank you Ping for joining us in this live today and enjoy the rest of your travels here in EMEA.
Ping: Thank you, Jordan!
Jordan: We have another live question. I’m gonna put this to Yash: how do you maintain the balance between what the partners want and the business roadmap?
Yash: That’s a really good question. I would say in some ways both inform each other, but that’s not really the answer. They do inform each other but it is also our job to see how both of them can fit in a way where we can make both business and partners happy at the same time. That’s a really tricky position to be in. A framework that I give people in my team, and that we have as partner engineers, is to really think about it as subproblems and not to focus on the whole business. If you’re working with a partner and let’s say their end goal might be increase their revenue or sale, we want to get more users on board, we want to increase the retention, or customer satisfaction…
We really try to break it down to a sub-problem that fits in nicely with a sub-objective or business goal. That’s where you’ll usually find a match of one to one. Even if you can provide value across something which might seem small, as increasing customer satisfaction, if implemented properly, if measured properly, that is a very powerful to be implementing, prototyping and launching in the ecosystem. Because something as small as increasing customer satisfaction or retention can go a long way in a business’s roadmap. We really try not to think of as “oh we want to solve all your problems” for product or for business. We really try to break it down into smaller problems. It’s a core philosophy.
Jordan: Excellent, excellent. We’ve had another open question: can we recruit in India?. The simple answer is that we hire for Asia-Pacific into Singapore but we do relocate people from all over the world to work in Singapore. Please do check out the careers page for the Singapore office and see if anything there is what you would be interested into applying for. Then the recruiter or the person you would speak to would be able to talk to you about relocation and how that process would work from India. Just because Facebook doesn’t have a necessarily an engineering office in any country, so not just India, there are many countries where we don’t have engineering offices, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t join Facebook by applying and being relocated. Don’t let that put you off applying.
Yash: In fact, just to add to that, we never consider a candidate’s location as a criteria for anything in the interview process. It’s not something that we would even look at or consider or be like “oh, this person is closer and can onboard quicker” or “this person is further away, it will take time”. That’s never a concern. I am speaking for the cross Facebook not just part of engineering. That’s usually a concern with a lot of other companies but Facebook feels that we invest in people and so we don’t really care about it.
Jordan: In your opinion, what makes a good client facing engineer?, what are the skills you’re looking for in a candidate? We’ve touched on that the team is a mixture of entrepreneurs and people have certain mindsets, so what is it that you guys think you’re looking for and what skills people should have in these types of roles?
Yannick: Clearly you have to start with a passion for the job. You have to want to be facing clients. I know some people are not wanting those kinds of interactions. That’s have to be the core of it. You also have to love coding and be passionate about technology as we all are on the team. And finally I think the skill that is very important is the ability to juggle between those two. These are two very different types of schedules: coding is something that we want to do calmly in the long term, and client interactions can be very fast paced. Being able to juggle your schedule and handle these kinds of contrasts will be very important as well.
Yash: I think that’s a perfect answer and covers my area as well. If I had to choose one quality or skill or something that a person should have to be successful at this job from a client perspective, is empathy. Without a doubt, empathy is number 1, 2, and 3. That’s core to the job. It will break down a lot of walls and a lot of barriers in your way of getting through to the client.
Jordan: Do you guys think that someone from a pure SWE (Software Engineer) background can be successful in these types of roles?
Yannick: There is no limitation on that. If you have a pure SWE background and you’ve only done technical things, which is my case, you can still, if you have the appetite towards it, become a Solution Engineer. If you want to have those client interaction and if it’s something you already can do. If you’re a good communicator, independently of whether it’s been client facing or not, that can be a very good stepping stone to become a Solutions Engineer.
Flora: One important thing is that you could be also “client facing” internally. For example, in one of my previous roles, I was working for an investment bank and I was sitting on the trading floor working very closely with the traders. Even though they were working for the same company they were still speaking a very different language to my teammates who were very tactical. I think that skill is quite important to be able to explain concepts in a non-technical way to non-technical people, and also give their feedback to the product teams.
Jordan: I might have lost people when I said the word SWE. SWE within Facebook means our core software engineering teams. Thus, the question was more aligned with what is the skillset around a core software engineer and would that be someone who would be successful in partner engineering or solutions engineering?. To summarize the answers I think that if you have the passion for working with clients it doesn’t matter if you haven’t done that before. If you can demonstrate that you want to be client facing and you want to communicate and want to work with people to solve real business challenges, that’s enough to be able to get your foot in the door and start that journey.
We have another live question. Along the same lines of skills and software engineer and not software engineering, “how much experience is usually needed to have a chance at joining Facebook? it seems like Facebook is mostly looking for quite experienced people“. What do you guys say to that?
Yannick: Honestly on our team, and I don’t know if it’s been a goal or not, we have hired at a very fairly experienced level, like five to ten years is pretty standard to us. We have hired some new grads, some people fresh out of the university, but we tend to hire more on the more experienced side. That said, we do have the internship program and we have interns that come in which have zero experience at their building experience and some of them get hired. So while we do skew towards more experienced it’s also possible to come with less experience on the team.
Flora: We do have some graduates roles open currently as well. As the team grows now we can actually afford to have different levels of experience in the team.
Jordan: On that point, if you are a graduate or you are looking to join Facebook as a graduate, you can go on our University page today and see the open graduate roles that we have available in EMEA at our London office. And we also do an internship every summer as well, so you can join for instance as someone who is in university still, as someone who’s just graduated, and someone who is an industry hire. I guess it’s the same for you, Yash?
Yash: Yeah, going with Yannick on this one. We do tend to skew towards more experienced people. I think partner engineering is one of those roles where, unlike core software engineering, you really spend some time in the industry to figure out if that’s something you want to do. I don’t think that as a fresh computer science graduate that’s something that comes very naturally. We have in the past of course recruited fairly early IC levels but we tend to skew towards people with at least five years of experience.
Jordan: Could you just elaborate on IC levels?
Yash: Yes. At Facebook we have two tracks: individual contributors and management tracks. The unique thing about Facebook is that you don’t have to be a manager to grow, you can grow as an IC. Our teams have grown big enough that we now allow for sufficient growth, the career path is pretty solid in that sense. It’s hard to, in two lines, give a framework for how you get to senior IC levels. A model to think about is the level of influence you have internally and externally and as that grows you grew as an IC. Of course along the way you pick up some skillset that really help you get there.
Jordan: Great answer. We’ve kind of touched on the internships at the moment and I just want to go a bit deeper on that so what does an internship at Facebook within solutions engineering?. Well, I’ll answer this one because I was an intern manager last year. What that looks like is you join Facebook and you’ll get given a certain project and within that project you will have a couple of milestones. So your milestones may be to, in the first 4 weeks, understand your project and start building it. In sort of the second 4 weeks, is really to finish it off or scale it out to an extent where it works and it’s code complete and you’re able to deliver that potentially to a client. The last 4 weeks we really look for that client facing / entrepreneurial skill which is how you can take this project and potentially expand it, or work with clients to get it adopted or integrate it with a couple of test partners. It’s a lot to try and do in 12 weeks but roughly that’s how we run our internships in those 3 buckets. That’s how we’re doing on solutions engineering. (to Yash) Do you guys have an internship program on partners?
Yash: We currently don’t have an internship program. I’m sorry.
Jordan: You, Yash, touched on career growth for what it looks like for the partner engineering team. Yannick, as a solutions engineering manager, how do you think about growing the careers of the people in your team?
Yannick: That’s a very good question. Like Yash said we have these two tracks about individual contributors and manager. You have to grow your impact basically. At Facebook, what we want to see is not how much effort you put but how much impact you have. Usually at the most senior IC levels will have an understanding of how clients work or how the industry works, and will be able to influence in a larger scope how Facebook interacts with those clients, how products will better fit the clients, and have more value there. Growth is a very strong factor for us managers, this is something we talk aboutwith our team we regularly, and we want everybody to grow and to reach the level where they want to be at.
Jordan: Flora, as a fellow individual contributor, how do you think about your growth?
Flora: I think there is a lot of space to grow within this role. I don’t feel I’m at the maximum yet. Seeing your career, Jordan, is quite inspiring for me. I’ve seen how you’ve move between roles within our team and tried different things. Even though I haven’t changed, I do feel how my impact is growing as Yannick said and how I’m more confident with certain things. If I ever get to a level where I’m bored there are different hats you could wear within solutions engineering. I guess there is also the option to move towards the manager track for anyone who is interested. We’ve even seen people leave the team for other similar teams, for example to partner engineering.
Jordan: That’s a good call. I think it’s worth knowing that internal mobility at Facebook is strongly encouraged. You can join a team and your the team would be very sad if you were to leave, but it’s not something that your manager or the team would ever hold you back from. If you wanted to change roles you would be encouraged and supported and given that opportunity to do that. So if you join as a solutions engineer and after 4 years decided you wanted to change roles you would be encouraged to do that and supported by your manager throughout. I think that is a another really important thing about the culture that we have a Facebook, that is encouraged and never suppressed. I think that’s really important.
Changing tag slightly, tell us about some of the exciting projects that you’ve worked on recently.
Yash: Sure, I can go first. One of the projects I could talk about is for a Messenger bot that my team built with Lego. Lego is a great partner for Facebook, everybody loves Lego. They wanted to use our Messenger platform as a way to identify people who would be the right users, that were consumers for certain Lego products. That was a business challenge that they had that and they presented. It was something that our team took on. We served both business and product. We engaged Lego, we engaged a third party company which would actually be doing a lot of the building of the bot, and then people on our team were creating these prototypes for analytics SDK, which we would install on their server, to measure the impact and help them improve the flow of the Messenger bot. The bot was so successful that Lego announced it at their earnings call last year and it’s still one the most popular Messenger bots on the platform. It’s again one of those things where the partners succeeded and we succeeded in testing out some of our closed beta products that are now going into production. So win-win for everyone.
Jordan: Excellent! Flora, Yannick? What would you say is your favorite project so far?
Flora: I guess my favorite one is the one I’m currently working. What we tend to do currently in solutions engineering is partner up. Each of us is like a point of contact towards one of the product teams. I’m the point of contact of a team called Cross-Border Business and they have a lot of products which are trying to make our ad products more international so that they deliver automatically in the right language and displaying the right price for each Facebook user. Working closely with them I’ve realized that one of their products I am a big believer in but when I was trying to convince the advertisers I work with to try this product they were bringing up some technical barriers. I’m currently working on a project to remove this barrier and I’m pretty excited about that. It’s like my own idea, my own baby, and it seems that it’s something that will have a lot of people excited internally and externally as well.
Jordan: Excellent! We have another live question. Cassandra (who has sent the question) has experience, but she doesn’t have ten years of experience. She got a BSC in computer science in 2008 but was delayed in getting into programming for about four or five years. I don’t think, Cassandra, that would be a major problem. When I joined Facebook for instance I’d only been in the industry for two or three years and I applied and passed the interviews. I think the biggest piece of advice I could give you there would be that, if you are interested in joining, just put in the time, put in the effort, put in the practice of doing the questions of the algorithms, of the data structures, that you’re gonna face when you come to interview. And if you do the study and you do the homework it will demonstrate itself when you come to interview. I wouldn’t necessarily let the lack of industry experience put you off. And then the second part, is there a way that people can contribute to Facebook’s open source projects?. We obviously have a GitHub page, and we’ve mentioned a couple of the open-source things that we’ve had like React and I think the answer tonight is yes. Like any open source project, we have teams that look after these projects and if you submit pull requests and they get reviewed and accepted and merged in you will be a contributor to these projects like anyone else would be, like you can with any open source project. Go and see if there’s a way you can improve it or things you can fix or help with and try and contribute as best you can.
Speaking of interviewing there, I gave one of the top tips that I would have, which is to practice, rehearse, study, and make sure that you put the time. What would be your top tips for interviewing?.
Yannick: One of the things that we do at Facebook, that I don’t think any other company does, is the recruiter who will be with you along the process is really rooting for you and helping you prepare for the interview. Jordan gave some great tips about preparing for the tech interview but there will be also a business interview, a manager interview, etc. And for all these you have to prepare as well and the recruiter who will be in contact with you will tell you exactly what these interviews are about, and how you can best prepare for them. Our goal is to see you at your best and not catch you off-guard with some unforeseen type of question.
Flora: I just like to emphasize the practice point. Even though you might be coding everyday in your job you you have to prepare for these interviews. You have to prepare solving this kind of quirky logical questions for the tech interview, maybe on a paper as well. I like to mimic the environment you would have in an interview. It’s not quite the same as doing a day to day software engineer job I would say.
Yash: I think just follow what they said. As far as algorithms and programming are concerned, we also have a loop on architecture, which we call “a pirate round”, and then that typically is something that I would say is a bit harder to prepare for, but you can prepare for it. A good way to look at that stage of the interview is that we typically try to find out your knowledge of systems end to end and, and how you think about scaling the solution. Again, it’s not going into the level where we expect you to build Spotify or something, it’s not like we expect you to build a system to serve billions of people, you’ll learn about those when you come to Facebook. What we really want to understand conceptually is that you have enough insights on trade-offs that can be made in a system and this goes to our job as well. In the end you want to make sure that you’re successful at the job here. A part of a very core part of our job is to work with partners and our internal tech stack to make sure that we are logically making those trade-offs, if and when we are scaling a solution for a partner. Everything that we do has a reason and, because we are agnostic to tech stack, we focus more on the fundamentals.
Yannick: One point I’d like to make on this is the tech level that we expect isn’t any different for solutions engineer than it is for software engineers. We are open to people moving around and if you want to go from solutions engineering to software engineering that has to be possible, but that means that we expect the same level of tech proficiency in solutions engineering than any other tech role and so the same for partner engineering. We have the same loops with the same sort of format of questions.
Flora: And we are touching the same codebase so yeah it’s not okay to introduce this bug in Facebook because it was done by a solutions engineer and not a software engineer. We have to be to the same level.
Jordan: Yeah, I think the final thing that I’ll add would be a small story about how I made a mistake during this which was that I wasn’t necessarily my authentic self when I was interviewing, I came to the interview thinking that the expectation would be to look smart, so I wore a shirt and a jumper and trousers and shoes. I was so hot, I was sweating for the whole three or four interviews and it was as well a high-pressure experience, a very uncomfortable personal experience as well. I think the final thing I would say for interviewing is just be yourself. Facebook has a culture of bringing your authentic self to work and that applies not just when you get to Facebook but during the interview process as well. It’s just be yourself because the interviews are hard enough, let alone trying to act like someone you’re not.
That’s pretty much all we had today on our live session so if from any of the questions that you’ve had or from watching this you feel like you want to come and apply and join our teams, please go and check out the careers website on Facebook.
I just want to thank everybody for watching and I want to thank you for all of the questions and comments today. I want to thank Flora, Yannick, and Ash for giving us all of the insightful answers that you had, and I just want to say thank you all again and have a great rest of your day everybody,or a great morning depending on where you are in the world.